Vodafone's CMO on how the pandemic affected the launch strategy for its new smart tech device

Vodafone's CMO on how the pandemic affected the launch strategy for its new smart tech device

Vodafone has embarked on the next phase in its more confident, modern brand repositioning launched last year with the unveiling of a new device. The consumer smart tech GPS tracker, branded ‘Curve’, will see Vodafone go head-to-head with established smart tech leaders such as Google, Samsung and Apple.

Following a major brand refresh last year to reflect its unlimited data plans under the strapline ‘Be Unlimited’ and the roll out of its 5G service, the Curve will see Vodafone enter a market predicted to contain 41 million smart devices by 2027. The sector is forecast to grow annually in magnitudes of trillions of euros across Europe.

Pamela Brown, Chief Marketing Officer, at Vodafone Consumer IoT (Internet of Things) concedes, “With rivals like that [Apple, Google, etc], we have a big job to do from a brand perspective as telcos are low on consumers’ lists [when it comes to smart tech products].”

The next step of the brand’s development will see it using smart tech to “improve everyday life” with a series of launches this year and next.

Each device will form part of a range ‘Designed & Connected by Vodafone’ reflecting a distinctive new design identity across hardware, software and communications. Each product will be created following consumer research then developed and designed entirely in-house.

Pamela Brown

A covid launch and ‘protecting the people and things we love’

The original UK launch of Curve was postponed from the spring until July 15 due to the lockdown. And for a tracking device that allows users to track people and possessions, sending them alerts and updates straight to their mobile from a distance, the lack of mobility for most people during strict lockdown proved an insuperable barrier to making an impact even across e-commerce channels.

“We conducted scenario planning and with our in-house psychologist and insights manager using syndicated data found that clearly people were concerned about the economy, health and their family. They were not interested in hearing from a brand that didn’t reflect the situation,” says Pamela.

As strict lockdown restrictions eased, however, a consumer insight revealed strong arguments for positioning Curve as offering emotional benefits. The Curve can be used, for example, to track not just keys, vehicles and pets but also people, such as vulnerable elderly relatives and children whom, she says, can enjoy greater independence with Curve.

“Now, more than ever, we want to protect the people and things we love and are looking for more ways to find peace of mind,” says Pamela.

Winning consumer trust and waiting for retail to revive

The next branding and advertising objective, given the scale of competition in the sector, will be to win consumer trust, she says.

“Consumers want a brand they can trust but also innovative products that are desirable. We’re building and designing the hardware and software to make a product experience second to none. We’ve ‘heroed’ the device in our launch to give it that identity. And if you’re super obsessed with your customers and focusing on their pain points while developing the product we think this will be a winning formula,” she says.

Vodafone operates mobile and fixed networks in 22 countries and partners with mobile networks in 48 more. It has 300 million mobile customers, more than 27 million fixed broadband customers and 22 million TV customers.

Its move into smart devices will see the brand try to connect its customers in new ways. Curve is designed as a key ring accessory, is enabled for built-in Vodafone Smart SIM and uses four different tracking technologies: GPS, Wi-Fi, Cellular and Bluetooth – to provide a more reliable connection.

Curve was also launched in Italy and Spain the same day as the UK with Germany expected soon. With 3,100 stores across the EU, retail is a large part of the channel mix for the brand, says Pamela.

“Store re-openings are varied across the markets so we’re focused on digital channels at present. But our stores are very important for differentiating our products – we can’t underestimate the importance of our store colleagues,” she says.